If a tsunami or an erupting volcano or an alien invasion suddenly forced me to evacuate the Dave Cave and I could take only one book with me, it would be Mastering Jujitsu by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher. First published in 2003 by Human Kinetics, this book should be in every evacuees's survival bag and on every grappler’s bookshelf.
The title says a lot. Why Jujitsu and not the more common Jiu jitsu? The reader can find the explanation in the text, plus a detailed history of the development of jujitsu from ancient times right through to the modern era. To find a more succinct history the reader would have to read a dozen other books, none of which would benefit from Danaher’s academic editorial polish. More than just historical narrative however, Mastering Jujitsu critiques the differences in combat effectiveness between the various styles of jujitsu.
This is not the place to give detailed biographies of the authors. Suffice it to say that both Gracie and Danaher are grappling masters that are more relevant today than ever. However, I have to stress that the combination of experience that these two bring to this collaboration is what makes this book a classic.
Along with the history noted above, the authors detail what they refer to as the combat strategy of jujitsu:
“We have seen that the overall strategy is based on the notion of single combat being divided into three phases, each of which has a set of skills that are independent of each other.”
The technical instruction portion of Mastering Jujitsu follows the phases of combat progression. Clear black and white photographs and easy-to-read text detail fundamental techniques from the free-movement phase, to the clinch phase, down through to the ground phase of fighting. Many of these techniques are frequently seen in mixed martial arts competition today, and, minus the striking techniques, practiced in BJJ gyms daily.
I regularly reach for Mastering Jujitsu when I have a question or am in need of inspiration. Don’t wait for a disaster to reach for a copy of Mastering Jujitsu; the grappling it changes may be your own.